Sunday, September 20, 2015

FASHION UNDERGROUND: The World of Susanne Bartsch

If ever there were a time we were at a loss for words, the opening night party for FIT's latest exhibition - Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch would have to be it.  For The Observer's very thorough and interesting review click here.   We would like to note that we very much appreciate this wonderful new trend of museums celebrating style that has not been dictated by a select few high profile couturiers and instead is led by mostly unknown people with highly individual tastes.  Other than that, we should get on with the pictures.

We didn't manage to see Susanne herself until the end of the evening, but since the exhibition couldn't have happened without her, here she is.  Sorry we couldn't get the feet in (actually, sorry we couldn't get the great legs in), but the place was jam packed, and there was no way to move back far enough.  Nevertheless, how many of us would dare to wear this fabulous transparent dress, much less a transparent dress up to our thighs?  Especially if we'd worn similar dresses in the 80s?  (That's thirty years ago, folks.)  With Susanne is Montgomery Frazier and Malan Breton.


Our press kit included some marvelous photos - a sort of time capsule - and there are a few we just HAVE to show you.  No detail is ever too small, as you'll see below.  FIT captioned this the "horse look", and indeed there is a mane, a tail, a whip and you must take a careful look at the shoes.

We were delighted to find FIT's press kit included a photo of Susanne wearing a dress featuring plastic Kewpie doll faces.  (Could it have been meant as a take-off on the iconic Paco Rabanne chain mail dress?)

In the exhibition, you can see the full length version (which isn't very long).  Long time readers will recognize the amazing variation-on-a-theme headdress, which we featured in our review of the Bard Graduate Center's mind-boggling exhibition of hats.

The upward perspective of this photo is due to the fact that it was probably fifteen feet off the ground.  There were so many costumes in the exhibition that an additional level had to be installed, and pieces were shown all around the wall, as well as at at floor level.  Soooo many questions we would have liked to ask.  Chief among them: where does a New Yorker store this amazing and extensive collection of one of a kind outfits?

One of the newest pieces in the show is this 2015 creation by Gareth Pugh, in paper, lycra and leather.  And yes, Susanne's legs really are that long and that svelte!

We can't possibly cover everything in this post, but we can give you this link to Paper magazine (which, we're happy to say, includes moi and moi), so you can get a better idea of the frenzy that accompanied the opening.  And over the next few days - sloooowly - we will be publishing more photographs on our Instagram account, so take a peek there as well.


It seemed as if le tout New York was out in full force, but it was occasionally hard to know who we were seeing - so many people dressed like something out of their wildest dreams.  (We didn't get that memo.  Funnily, we both dressed in black and red, although, as usual, there had been no discussion or strategizing on what to wear.)

We'd barely arrived when we ran into one of our heroes, milliner Stephen Jones, wearing his signature top hat, made out of light as a feather but ever so sturdy see-through black nylon mesh.

Fun, not to mention shock and awe, were in full swing as soon as we entered.  The gentleman on the left is dressed literally head to toe in houndstooth (um, we're assuming it continues under his boots), but he takes the expression to new levels, covering his head and his (non-detachable?) hat as well.  It looked like an homage to the late great Leigh Bowery, a legend of London's 1980s club scene.  (See the wonderful documentary on Leigh Bowery here.  It's a bit grainy, but so worth it.)  One of the costumes in the exhibition was made by Bowery.

We asked this gent if he made his hat, and he said yes.  We should have asked if he made the suit too, but how else would he have gotten it to match?

When Valerie asked to photograph these gents, they immediately put up their newspapers, which they'd been carrying casually right up until then.  They were great, newspapers or no, but they knew how to set up the shot for us.  They turned out to be photographer Gazelle Paulo and Scooter LaForge.

Men in hats!  Left, Austin Taylor wearing a Philip Treacy which took him forever to pay for on a student's income (we're not students, but we - and our readers - completely understand scrimping and saving for that special something); right, Graham Tyler, a milliner, wearing his own creation.  The very delicate veiling is fabulous!

Here are Graham and J.  All three of these gents are roommates, and all of them are soooooo sweet!   J. says Graham also made his dress, so it limits Graham to call him a milliner.

We ran into Ben Mindich and Montgomery Frazier on the stairs to the exhibition as they were exiting and we were entering.

There were so many different expressions of creativity!

After an exhausting New York Fashion Week of staging runway shows, public relations gurus -- and men about town -- Roger and Mauricio Padilha, came to the opening party.  Their newest book, "GLOSS: The Work of Chris von Wangenheim" by Rizzoli, was published at the beginning of NYFW.

Socialite and philanthropist Jean Shafiroff also attended. In addition to hosting three New York City Cancer Society galas and serving on the boards of the NYC Mission Society and the NY Women's Foundation, Jean is also a member of the Style Council which supports the Museum at FIT.

Outside FIT, we ran into Jason Brickhill and Markus Martinez, both ablaze with glittering shirts.

Kayvon Zand and Anna Evans both chose to wear white outfits.

Danielle Mahoney and William Noguchi posed for a shot with Valerie. We coveted William's fabric corset.

We met this trio outside FIT, too.

Markus Glitteris posed with Suzanne and was kind enough to send us this shot.

Wren, whom we met and posted about a few years ago, was wearing one of his doll-leg breast plates. He pointed out to us several of pieces he had made for Susanne which were on display on the mannequins in the exhibition.  Check out his website Purevile.

We want to give a special nod to Dr. Valerie Steele, left, who put this amazing exhibition together.

Since traditional fashion shows used to end with a bridal gown, we've chosen to end this post with Susanne's wedding dress.  In a room full of spectacular pieces, it was decidedly one of the most spectacular, made by Thierry Mugler, and complete with built-in nipples.

Online, we found that the veil was large enough to encompass her husband, David Barton, and their son, Bailey.


  1. WOW, that was some party! I think I would have been speechless too. Her outfits combine a fantastic mix of fetish party, toy store and fairytale - I can't wait to see this exhibit in October. The outfits on the guests are just as interesting to look at as the ones on display.

  2. What would I do without the two of you and your blog, which displays the most spectacular creativity on the face of the earth. Every photo takes my breath away!